They did it again. The Angels took another college catcher with their first round pick. The Angels had the #16 overall pick, and some solid names like Blake Rutherford and Dakota Hudson were still on the board. But the Halos took catcher Matt Thaiss, from Virginia.
A little about Thaiss: He's about 6-0 tall, 190 lbs. He played with Virginia, but before that, he was a high school prospect out of Jackson, New Jersey. He was actually drafted by the Red Sox in the 32nd round of the 2013 draft, but he decided to head to college instead. He's not really known for his catching skills, like last year's first rounder Taylor Ward. The talk on Thaiss was that if he's being drafted, it's for his bat.
Speaking of the bat, here's what SB Nation's John Sickels had to say about his skills at the plate:
A note of caution was sounded when Thaiss hit just .149/.197/.254 in 67 at-bats in the Cape Cod League last summer, with uncharacteristically poor strike zone judgment: two walks, 18 strikeouts. However, Thaiss has completely turned that around this spring, hitting .366/.468/.557 for Virginia with seven homers, 32 walks, and an incredibly low strikeout rate with just eight whiffs. Nobody seems concerned about Cape Cod at this point.
Thaiss is a 6-0, 195 pound left-handed hitter born May 6th, 1995. Thaiss has exceptionally good feel for the strike zone and a clean line drive swing. Although lacking big raw power, he has enough bat speed to get the ball over the fences, especially given his ability to recognize hittable offerings and lay off pitches he can't drive. He should hit for solid batting averages and high OBPs with moderate power.
This was a highly questionable pick for the Angels and their new GM, Billy Eppler. I mean, if that bat is legit, then cool. In the meantime, I definitely need a bit to process this. I think I need to lay down.
Second take (Turk):
I was a little taken aback by this pick initially, though Keith Law mentioned it early today, at which point I wrote:
(Turk: This is the first I've heard Thaiss, which would be another bat-first alternative to Will Craig on my board. And another first-round catcher, oof! Albeit one who can actually hit, and is probably a 1B or LF down the road.)
As I think about this more, given that I had Will Craig on my own board, Matt Thaiss may arguably be the better bat. He has 20 HR power at the moment, and maybe he gets to more if he develops further. We'll see.
He was a genuine first rounder this time, not a Taylor Ward. I had him on 17 boards between spots #12 and #33.
Ironically, for those suspicious of Scioscia's influence on this pick (and I'll admit some at first), Thaiss is more of a Napoli to Ward's Mathis. That complicates that conspiracy theory a bit.
Very good prospect analysts had him in the teens. Jonathan Mayo at #12 (to Red Sox). John Manuel at #18. Keith Law had him at #21 on his big board (which is not a mock, but simply evaluating for talent.)
He’s an on-base machine, with a .473 OBP in 2016. He almost never strikes out (less than 6% of the time this year). He’s sort of a poor man’s Zack Collins, with one-third of the Ks, if you want to confine the field to this draft class, and are looking for power/patience profile.
He won’t catch for the Angels. He’ll be a first-baseman, and they may give him some reps in left field and at third.